Labour’s patriot games

I couldn’t help shifting uncomfortably. Despite the pre game beers and an atmosphere expectant of something special I felt detached from the crowd. It was Scotland v Ireland at Hampden, the first post referendum international and words sung strongly by the crowd felt hollow, carved out, meaningless.

Approximately 40,000 Scotland football fans packed the stands at Celtic Park. Decked in their Scotland outfits and Scottish garb the throng easily melted into one massive and passionate mass. On the surface I was one of them. But beneath we had parted.

For the first time at a Scotland game I just didn’t fit. Normally passionate and powerful in song a silent pall had descended. I hadn’t forgotten the words, the beer had made no dulling effect; the Scottish football anthem “Flower of Scotland” had just lost its scent.

Assuming that the crowd reflected the referendum result then more than half of my fellow fans, less than a month before, had rejected an independent Scottish nation. This thought percolated in my mind and simply wouldn’t sink. The feeling would last considerably longer than the heartburn from the half time pie.

For 20,000+ there was no issue in voting “No” and supporting Scotland as they took to the pitch, and very clearly in my mind nor should there be. No one voice has the right to call a “No” voter any less of a Scot and within the most fervent wing of the Tartan Army you’ll find many in the status quo camp. Passionate supporters one and all, but only thing they are not are patriots.

Labour’s patriot games

A supporter is one thing. A patriot is another. Both can display a passionate belief in the power and prowess in ones own country. Both can recite their nations’ verses; historical achievements and display an encyclopaedic knowledge of their countries geography. They can flawlessly make the national dish; can wear their national dress with a pride that drips from their eyes. But only a patriot wants an independent Scottish nation.

Similarly a political party can make all the noises, wear the outfits and pound its chest but a party which does not support independence can not be a patriotic party. Jim Murphy’s claim is a bubble that has already burst.

Labour as the patriotic party is like the bakery which opens and doesn’t sell any bread. It’s bun-less oven, built on a false premise: that somehow you can be a patriot and not support an independent nation. Using this false logic a patriot is someone who does not believe in a nations independence. Thanks to labour’s reworking we now have new and helpful labels for historical characters.

William Wallace and Robert the Bruce were not patriots. Neither Washington. Not Bolívar, San Martín or Martí. Nor the millions who fought for these leaders against their subjugation as they strove to become independent nations.

A partisan but not a patriot

I have no doubt whatsoever that a large percentage of those who voted “No” in the referendum did so because they considered they would be better off and so would their nation. The motivation was exactly the same for most “Yes” voters. Two different parties had come to the same cross roads and simply chosen different routes. One can argue about the path chosen, as much as the destination, but one thing we can say is that both saw the signpost “Patriot” but only the “Yes” voters could take that route.

Patriots throughout history have known that independence wouldn’t automatically lead to a materially wealthier nation just the hope of a better one. Patriots choose social justice over wealth on every occasion.

Every nation builder has their doubts that their new state would be safe and secure. Central and South American Nations who rejected imperial Spain foresaw decades of internal struggle. The Haitians who throw out the French knew that building a nation was not easy. The African and Asian states who jettisoned the Europeans saw dark times ahead. The Americans knew that a civil war would likely take place soon after the British were sent packing.

Wealth creation is never the driver in national building and a patriot knows it. Central to a patriots decision is the belief that their nation should be independent. This trumps every single other issue. You can stack the scales so high that they scrap the sky but it will never tip to that side if self determination is placed opposite: this weight is what defines a patriot.

A “No” voter can not claim this position and a party which does not even offer independence can not own the word: the word like the actions belong to those supporters of an independent nation. Pretending otherwise is just a game.